Tuesday, October 22, 2013

'Y' : For Yoga, Bikram Yoga

BTW today with this blog I complete 200 blogs. A little slow, but I like it this way.

Today, I have chosen the topic "Yoga", and that too Bikram Yoga.

You might be wondering what is so special about Bikram Yoga, for Yoga is supposed to be the same, but read on for Bikram's Yoga is a little different.

Yogiraj Bikram Choudhury is the founder of the worldwide Yoga College of India™. Born in Calcutta in 1946, Bikram began Yoga at the age of four with India's most-renowned physical culturist at that time, Bishnu Ghosh, the younger brother of Paramahansa Yogananda (Author of the most popular book on Yoga, The Autobiography of a Yogi, and founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles).

"It's never too late, you're never too old, you're never too sick to start from scratch again, to be born again."
Bikram Choudhury, Founder, Bikram Yoga
Bikram practiced Yoga at least four to six hours every day at Ghosh's College of Physical Education in Calcutta. At the age of thirteen, he won the National India Yoga Championship. He was undefeated for the following three years and retired as the undisputed All-India National Yoga Champion.
 At seventeen, an injury to his knee during a weight-lifting accident brought the prediction from leading European doctors that he would never walk again. Not accepting their pronouncement, he had himself carried back to Bishnu Ghosh's school, for he knew that if anyone could help to heal his knee, it was his teacher. Six months later, his knee had totally recovered. Ghosh was a celebrated physical culturist and the first to scientifically document Yoga's ability to cure chronic physical ailments and heal the body.

Bikram later on devised the 26 postures sequence, which work irrespective of age groups. These 26 postures series has a profound healing power on your body and mind. He founded Bikram’s Yoga College of India. Bikram has shown the light of healthy life to millions of people around the world.

Bikram is the most respected living Yoga Guru in the world. He has written books on Bikram Yoga. These books are wonderful work for the entire yoga world.

Bikram Yoga is not a special branch of yoga. Rather it is a set of twenty-six specific postures or asanas which need to be performed in a certain sequence in an environment that is pre-heated to 105-Fahrenheit degrees.

The whole exercise takes about 90 minutes and it has to be done every day – in return Bikram yoga claims it would keep you as healthy as it comes. The Bikram Yoga is special in the fact that it is copyrighted to Bikram Choudhury, a person who has been giving yoga classes since he was 20 years old.

Bikram wrote a book on the way he thought that yoga could be used for maximum benefit - "Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class" for which he obtained copyright in 1979. Ever since, he had demanded that anyone who taught his style of yoga should apply for a license from him – as Bikram Yoga had become copyrighted style of yoga. In 2002 a court in USA granted him this right and ever since Bikram Yoga has been a style or method of yoga that intellectually belonged to Bikram.

There are plenty of ways in which you could learn about Bikram Yoga postures. You could use the book, the video cassette or DVD and self tutor yourself with the help of the material you buy. However, the best is to learn it in a Bikram Yoga (licensed) center as you would be guided carefully into mastering the whole set of 26 postures.

Bikram claims that he had chosen these 26 postures in such a manner that the person who practices them would be able to exercise each and every muscle, tendon, organ and even bone and skin once he/ she completes the whole set. The postures should always be performed in the sequence given; it is important that the sequence be maintained as this too has been chosen to optimize the impact it has on the body as well as gradually increase the capacity of the body to perform.

The 1st to 12th pose are done standing and are known collectively as 'Standing Poses'. The other poses are done lying on the floor or by sitting up. All these postures have to be done twice before going to the next posture and the whole set should take about 90 minutes from end to end.

TEMPERATURE: 105f degree Heat / 40% Humidity. (Temperature can be adjusted for extremes in humidity; LOW humidity + HIGHER temperature; HIGH humidity + LOWER temperature). Bikram was the first to  introduce heat in his classes, others who have come up with so called "Hot Yoga" have tried to copy his method. So if one really wants to experience Hot Bikram Yoga, then one must go to one of licensed studios, spread all over the world. (except India, where I still have no idea where his licensed studio is, maybe there are but I could not find them).
You might ask why hot yoga why not any yoga?
There is a meaning behind this madness.
Yoga changes the construction of the body from the inside out, from bones to skin and from fingertips to toes. So before you change it, you have to heat it up to soften it, because a warm body is a flexible body. Then you can reshape the body any way you want.

Hatha Yoga flushes away the waste products, the toxins of all the glands and organs of your body. It provides a natural irrigation of the body through the circulatory system, with the help of the respiratory system. It brings nourishment to every cell of your body so that each one can perform its function and keep your body healthy. Bikram Yoga also employs heat to further that cleaning process: When you sweat, impurities are flushed out of the body through the skin. Practicing yoga not only increases our supplies of oxygen, but it also teaches us how to use that oxygen properly – we learn to control the breath through pranayama.

It is not unusual to feel nauseous or dizzy during your first class. Practicing yoga in a heated room reveals to us our present condition, and inspires us take much better care of ourselves. Usually the problem is that we do not drink enough water for daily living, let alone for exercising in a heated room. Nutritionists tell us that we need 2-3 liters of water a day to help the body function properly. 

In the heated yoga room, your body needs adequate fund of water to allow perspiration to release heat from the body as you practice. So we estimate you need somewhere around 5- 6 liters of water/ fluid in the form of juices and watery vegetables / fruits (sometime during the day) to allow for your 90 minutes in the room. Once you are drinking enough water your body will tolerate the heat better and you will actually enjoy the heat.  In Bangalore itself I manage to drink about 4 liters of water/ fluids in a day.

One can read the various testimonials by the students, who claim initially they felt terrible doing yoga in such heated studio, but soon they got used to it and started enjoying their classes and also started reaping the benefits of Hot Yoga of Bikram. Once they have liked his class they often become an addict to his class.
In India,  in many places we need not go looking for heat, we already have that temperature, all we have to do is to do it in shade that's all.

One can practice BY by using his Yoga book and the BY CD in our home too, either by creating the heated environment, or without the heat. Without the heat, we may not get the full benefits, but still it is better to do it for we would get most of the benefits. Also, since he has created a specific order in which the various asanas have to be performed everyday without any change, it makes it easier for us to do them effectively.  Though his his classes are called Beginner's Yoga class everywhere,  it is quite challenging, so in his class you would find both the beginner, as well as advanced students practicing his moves  together, each at his/her level, but with every body doing it  together.  Also, the routine is the same always, however, the body and mind are always different so the postures, and their order, don’t ever get boring. Bikram scientifically designed the series so that one posture opens a specific area of the body in preparation for the next posture. By practicing the same order every class one will be able to mark one's improvement. Remember, this is a lifetime practice that can always improve, deepen and advance!

I just love this \Bikram Yoga, for there are no new postures to be learnt, struggling, and finally not getting any of the postures perfectly, and it is true, that the asanas are pretty tough, but one can see improvements everyday, for it needs lots of concentration, patience and dedication, and when we are able to get most of it perfect, the pleasure is simply great. 
There is never anything like doing the asanas perfectly, for there is always room for some more  improvement, and that is the challenge that keeps one going from day to day, always looking forward to doing better and better.

My son who lives in Chicago, is BY fan. On my request, has sent me a  CD and a book which I follow everyday without fail, and I am just loving it.( though I am doing it  in the cool weather of Bangalore). However, I am pretty warmed up after my Aerobics class, and also  make it a point to drink lots of hot water with lemon and honey to keep me quite hot in this cool weather. I have been to many yoga classes, but after coming across BY, (years ago) I feel  it really makes sense to follow this very disciplined, scientifically programmed series of Yoga asanas.
This is how BY class looks all over the world, this one is in Chicago in River North area.

                                The practice is so intense, that one need not go to other classes like aerobics                                                                                                                                                                                                or weight training to build muscles, one can get everything here itself

                                      One is allowed to sit if one is feeling little tired or sick in the first few                                                          classes
                                     Not everyone can sit with  one knee folded and on the toes, but those who                                      are  able to, were also once struggling like the ones who cannot sit. 
                             You can see the Instructor standing on the platform watching every student, correcting, encouraging them.
Here you can see Bikram with all  the students from all over the world who have come to him to be trained as Instructors

The beauty of his class is that all BY trained Instructors would teach it in the same way, using the same words, ( that is how they are supposed to do, it is part of their training) so that no matter which part of the world you happen to be, you would not have  any problems following them. 
While you are moving very slowly: Stretching, holding, balancing, don't be shocked to feel your heart beating like you have been running for miles, for that is Bikram yoga.
People who live in naturally hot places in India should definitely, give it a try doing it in their homes following his CD.

I know this topic is too long, but I had to share this with all of you.
Tell me would you like to try this kind of Yoga if you had BY studio near your  place?


  1. Very exhaustive,detailed and informative writeup about Bikram Yoga.I am particularly happy that you have been practising yoga for a long time and that could be the secret behind your good health.
    Fist time i am hearing about BY though iyengars yoga is popular in Karnataka and South India and elsewhere.The rationale behind heated atmosphere is convincing..A very fine post with utmost clarity

    1. Thank you KP. I am not surprised, that, you have not heard about him or his world famous classes, for we in India have so many yoga classes, that we never have the need to look any where else. I am glad you liked it.

  2. Wow! What an interesting and insightful post, Rama. Was not at all aware of Bikram Yoga, had just heard the name BY. Thanks for sharing about it!! Same language, same sequence of exercises, specific temperature, patented, licensed studios... wow... Bikram has made this as a truly an impressive and an exclusive from of yoga!

    1. Yes isn't it impressive, to think a person from our country has made a name for himself all over the world. He is the only living Yoga guru, who commands lot of respect from people living all over the world. He brought Yoga to the world when people in the west didn't even know the word 'Yoga'. I am glad you liked it Shilpa. Thanks.

  3. Wowww....that was neat...staying in the US, BY is heard all over the place. Almost in every city, I believe. I never enrolled but know of a friend who went to the classes. I think my hubby also purchased them, he never attended though. I am surprised it is not there in India. Leanred many new things about BY today. Thank you, Rama. Also, I like the Golu pic at the top. :) Congrats on your 200th post.

    1. Thanks for everything, Latha. Yes it is so popular, there are many classes in each city, and is also very affordable. One can see by through some of his teacher's training class, pictures, how many students are enrolling themselves to become certified Instructors. Not only is the training very expensive, but it also very tough to get through it. However, they all start their own BY classes and make all the money they have spent. Not just the money, they turn out to become very committed and humble instructors. I think you should give their 10 days BY a try. I don't think the heat would bother us so much because we are all used to the heat, of course exercising in the heat might be a little difficult, but soon one would get used to that too.

  4. Never knew so much about Bikram Yoga , had only heard his name and that the yoga he taught was done in controlled temperature. Thank you for such a detailed write-up. Here in the US, there are a lot of Bikram Yoga centers. Hopefully Indians realise the goodness of yoga before it comes back with a western label.

    1. Indians would never appreciate anything, whether it comes packaged from abroad or whether it is there right under their nose. For us every thing is just a fad, we never have any commitment or determination, for us it is always chalta hai attitude. Even walking we cannot do it systematically like wearing proper dress, shoes and doing it alone or with a person who is at our own level. We like to just stroll with friends in the name of walking, we just love to pass our time gossiping with like minded friends and come back and have something heavy to eat.
      I think it doesn't matter, with what label it comes as long as people learn to appreciate it.
      Thanks Reshma.

  5. Yes, my son is a big fan of this yoga and regularly practices. I would love to try it out some day!Thank you for all the information you shared Rama.

  6. Thanks for the detailed information. I have heard the name but didnt know anything more about it.

  7. Rama, that's an excellent share, thank you. Though, i know about this form, I did not know about the exhaustive and useful information you have given. ‘Bikram yoga’ also known as ‘hot yoga’ was developed by Bikram and includes 26 poses based on the traditional ‘Hatha Yoga. one of the instructor Uttara was trained in this and we have a studio here in banjara hills where Paramahansa yogananda's grand daughter is one of the instructor..

    I practice poweryoga , vinyasa and traditional yoga under my watchful instructor who corrects the finest bends and positions. She teaches other forms of yoga like hot yoga , hatha yoga, acroyoga too but yes it is never popular here as Bikram yoga. Poweryoga helped me do 108 suryanamaskars, but i now realize traditional yoga( BKS iyengar) is the best
    .Bharat thakur's studio is also near my house where he personally comes and teaches.

    BTW, there is another form of yoga popular in the bay region of US called KAthak yoga which is a combo of kathak and yoga, devised by pandit chitresh das, a kathak exponent and this is popular only in the west.

  8. Thanks a lot Rama for this enlightening post on Bikram Yoga and the benefits that accrue! I too have been practicing yoga for many years though not so intensely and can vouch for the efficacy:)

  9. A very meaningful post with interesting details.

  10. I bought the book out of curiosity! Thanks for the post.

  11. I've tried yoga once and really enjoyed it. Fascinating post. There aren't too many classes in my part of London but when I've retired and have more time I shall definitely seek them out. Your garden by the way looks beautiful all lit up like that. What's the weather like in Bangalore this time of year? We are descending into winter and each year it's more of a struggle dealing with the cold and the wet!